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Defense rises up for Shock

Spokane’s defense, after a shaky start, has been stellar the last six games. Read more below.


By Jim Meehan

jimm@spokesman.com, (208) 765-7131

Spokane has offered two examples recently of the strides its defense has taken since yielding at least 70 points in three of the first four games this season.

Two weeks ago, Milwaukee, which torched Spokane for 74 points in early April, managed just 48 in the rematch. And last Friday, the Shock shut down Arizona 37-36, roughly two months after the Rattlers scored 56 against Spokane.

After six games, Spokane was 4-2 and yielding 61.5 points per game. In the last six outings – all Shock wins – the defense has permitted 43.8 points with a high of 57 (vs. Jacksonville). For the season, Spokane is giving up 52.7 points, third in the Arena Football League. The Shock also rank in the top three in sacks, rushing yards allowed and total defense.

“We’re really limiting teams from taking that home run shot on us,” defensive coordinator Alex Sirianni said. “Live to fight another play is kind of our motto. You need a consistent pass rush to do that so they can’t sit back there and go deep on you. Our defensive backs have bought into that, keeping people in front of you.”

That reflects an adjustment in Spokane’s defensive philosophy.

“I’ve been on teams where coaches forced players into something they weren’t,” head coach Rob Keefe said. “Our guys are really good off the ball. We still mix in press (coverage), but if you can find a guy that’s good at that constantly, he’s in the NFL or the CFL.

“We took a step back after the (72-68) loss to Cleveland. We had to start playing to our guys’ strengths.”

Arizona scored on all but one possession, but it usually required several plays and consumed big chunks of time. A 22-yard pass to J.J. McKelvey was the lone Rattlers’ play to gain more than 14 yards.

“We’ve adjusted,” said Sirianni, whose defense gets another crack at Cleveland on Saturday. “What we’re doing now works for us and that is what’s most important.”

The defense is still forcing turnovers. Spokane has 15 interceptions (tied for fifth) and 12 forced fumbles (tied for third).

“We went to a defensive meeting (Tuesday) and coach was saying before the season we didn’t know our identity,” defensive back Travis Williams said. “We were kind of a press team, but it’s kind of hard in this game to press a guy that’s running full speed at you. I just think we’re coming along, knowing how each other plays.”

Sick bay

Keefe said he’ll know more about the severity of defensive end Ben McCombs’ knee injury later in the week, but McCombs isn’t expected to play against Cleveland.

“I’m a really positive person,” Keefe said, “but it looked kind of harsh when he went down.”

Jeremy Geathers will probably replace McCombs in the lineup.

Keefe didn’t have an update on receiver Raul Vijil, who went on injured-reserve last week with an MCL injury. Vijil is in a knee brace and walking with a noticeable limp. Quorey Payne, one of the players who filled in for Vijil, was wearing a boot on his right foot at Tuesday’s practice. His toe was stepped on during the game, but Keefe expects he’ll be able to play this week.

Receiver Greg Orton, who signed last week, also could emerge as an option. He was one of the last cuts in Shock training camp.

Markee White (shoulder) is running routes, but at least a week away from returning. The target date for center Antonio Narcisse’s return is the first round of the playoffs.

Notes

Defensive back Rod Mosley was activated from injured-reserve and released. Mervin Brookins, who performed well in his Shock debut Friday, will be the fourth defensive back. Brookins replaced William Mulder, who was sick. … The Shock’s 37 points was the lowest winning total in the franchise’s five years. They have been held under 37 points four times (20 in a 2006 game; 28, 34, 35 in ’07).

 

 

 


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Jim Allen Sports reporter Jim Allen's primary coverage areas are Eastern Washington University football and men's basketball, and college and high school soccer. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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Jim Meehan Jim Meehan's coverage areas include Gonzaga University men's basketball, Spokane Shock football, golf and volleyball. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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Chris Derrick Chris Derrick is a sports reporter. His primary coverage areas are the Spokane Chiefs, Spokane Indians, women's basketball and high school softball and volleyball. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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Josh Wright Josh Wright is a freelance correspondent who covers the University of Idaho football team and men's basketball team.

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